A Master Class in Link Bait

The Australian electrical goods retailer Kogan hit the headlines this week by telling the world that they were going to start levying a browser tax on any users who arrived at their website using ie7 rather than a more modern browser.  According to the company spokesman, they’ve just finished redeveloping their website, and the need to be cross browser compliant and accommodate users of a browser that’s 6 years ago had increased their development costs to such an extent that they needed to recoup the additional cost by getting users to pay an additional 6.8% on purchases.

Cool Story Bro.

At the time of writing, there are about 225,000 results in Google for “Kogan Internet Explorer Tax” including pages from the BBC, Telegraph, Huffington Post, Gizmodo, The Register, and many more.  And guess how many of those are linking to Kogan?  A lot.  Check out the spike in links to Kogan registered on Majestic SEO this week:

Pow! 1,000 extra links in the space of a day.  Exactly the kind of links that Google is looking for post-penguin:  brand links from high quality news and social sites.  Exactly the kind of links that you typically can’t get from sending out emails to hundreds of webmasters offering a “unique” advertising opportunity.

Whether intentional or not (and my money is definitely on intent), Kogan delivered an awesome piece of link bait that got amazing results for them.  If I do a search for “LED TV” in Google Australia, and stand on my head to pretend to be from the colonies, I see Kogan ranking at position 2.  Behind Wikipedia.

Kogan got a tonne of links to their content because it was believable yet slightly shocking, and because it took the existing opinion of their desired audience to an extreme.  Who in the tech world misses an opportunity to have a pop at Microsoft or push an update now message?

The important thing about Link Bait is that a story only works once.  If you post a warning on your site tomorrow saying that you’re going to start charging IE7 users a 6.8% tax on purchases, it will be Kogan who get the link.  Your own link bait needs to be original.

The Secret

Regardless of whether you aim for the most outrageous story in history or something quite mundane, the key to success in link bait is simple.  You need to produce something that reinforces the prejudices of your audience.  When people see something that legitimises their own viewpoint, particularly one that is relatively contentioys, they will latch onto it as a justification, and they will share it.